Sandy’s surge caused destruction in three states


A record-setting tidal surge from Superstorm Sandy caused major damage to boats, marinas and coastal properties in northern New Jersey, the New York City area and the lower Hudson River, and western Long Island and Connecticut, according to BoatUS.

“It’s going to be a major impact, not only an impact to recreational boaters but to marinas and other marine-related properties,” Jim Holler, BoatUS vice president of marine insurance, told Soundings Trade Only, adding that boat damage estimates won’t be available for another week. “They were severely damaged, and it will take months and months to get back up functioning.”

Sandy largely spared the southern and northern East Coast states — such as Virginia, Maryland, the Carolinas, Massachusetts and Maine — but hit parts of Connecticut, New York and New Jersey very hard.

“It’s total devastation of all the marinas,” said Tom Hurst, owner of TowBoatUS Manasquan and Budget Boat Towing and Salvage in New Jersey. “[At] MarineMax the boats broke through the buildings. [At] Garden State Marina, all the boats washed away and went across the street into the golf courses.”

Hurst says many of the boats that were left in the water survived, but those that were pulled were lost.

“They kept saying the tidal surge would be 6 to 8 feet, then it went to 8 to 10 feet, and when the storm was about to hit they were saying a 13-foot tidal surge,” Hurst said. “You could stand out in the road — this is at 2 o’clock in the morning — and literally watch the water come up. And it just didn’t stop. It just kept coming and coming, and people started running from their houses. We had women with children down the street screaming for help.”

None of Hurst’s nine towboats were damaged, and he used four of them to rescue people during the height of the storm. At this point, Hurst is worried little about salvaging boats.

Click play to view the damage in the area.

“The marinas are not operational at all,” said Hurst, whose office, operating on generator power, is serving as Brick Township’s police and fire headquarters. “I have the insurance guys coming by, but I told them if I go out and start raising boats there are no marinas that are functioning, so where am I going with them? In a lot of cases the Travelifts are down, and there are boats sunk all over the place. We have seven new inlets — I mean, literally inlets. I am not talking about a high tide and a little water trickling through. I am talking about tidal flow both ways.”

Sandy will prove to be “much more devastating than Irene,” Holler said. “You did not have the tidal surge with Irene. I think [the impact] is going to dwarf Irene.”

Holler heard about one marina on the East River in New York that was completely washed out. “[The owner] went down to look, and it was gone — literally the marina was gone and everything associated with the marina had been washed away,” Holler said.

Boaters did a good job preparing for Sandy, but their efforts in many cases were to no avail, he said.

“People took the precautions of having their boats hauled and put ashore on blocks, on cradles or jack stands. Unfortunately their marina was not very high above sea level, and when the surge came in, the water just took those boats and deposited them in a big pile in the parking lot. We have people who have gone to their marina to ascertain the damage and found the marina was no longer there.”

The tidal surge set a record in lower Manhattan at 13.8 feet, nearly 4 feet higher than the previous high. At Kings Point, N.Y., the water rose to 14.4 feet, and it rose to 13.3 feet in Sandy Hook, N.J.

From BoatUS studies, the surge stands out as the one element of the hurricanes that does the most damage, Holler said. “That’s not to say the wind is not a major factor. It builds the surge up,” he said. “Let’s face it, the Hudson River and the whole New York, New Jersey and Connecticut area is like a funnel. You take the ocean and push it into the funnel, and the water has no place else to go but up.”

Irene caused an estimated $500 million in damage to recreational boats, excluding marina structures, from South Carolina to Maine, according to BoatUS. Hurricane Ike, in 2008, was estimated to have caused $200 million in damage to boats.

— Chris Landry


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